Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Of Big Numbers, Punctuation, and Other Random Stuff

Well, I think I've said everything I need to say about the economic crisis. I'm tired of raging and ready to talk about some new things for a change. And speaking of change, if you've got any to spare...oh, never mind.

All the talk about hundreds of billions of dollars for bailouts and such makes my head hurt. But math does that in general. Big brains like Mike and John trade physics quizzes, and Rima has gone back to school to study math and other stuff. Me, I'll stick with things like German and Russian grammar that are easier to understand.

All of which leads me to this site, circulated around the office yesterday by one of my coworkers: The World's 23 Toughest Math Questions. The list leads off with something called The Riemann Hypothesis, which is so complicated that I couldn't even understand the explanation in Wikipedia, and continues on with gems like "Perelman's Proof of Thurston's Geometrization Theorem" and "The Smooth Poincare Conjecture in Dimension 4."

Heck, my mathematical skills max out with the addition and subtraction of two-digit numbers. I can usually count to ten...twenty with my shoes and socks off...and twenty-one with my fly down. Forget anything dealing with math that has words like "conjecture," "theorem," "hypothesis," or "stocastic" in the name. AARRGGHH!!

By the way, one of my coworkers says he deserves the $1 million dollar prize for solving this question: "What are the Physical Consequences of Perelman's Proof of Thurston's Geometrization Theorem?: Can profound theoretical advances in understanding three dimensions be applied to construct and manipulate structures across scales to fabricate novel materials?" His answer is "No." Now he wants the money.

On another topic, I've been so busy railing about the state of the economy that I missed National Punctuation Day on September 24th - a day dedicated to the proper use of the 13 major punctuation marks of English. If you read the wonderful little book by Lynne Truss titled "Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation," you can appreciate National Punctuation Day. I was also reminded of Daniel Keyes' classic short story Flowers for Algernon, which includes a wonderful and poignant scene in which Charley, the mentally-retarded character who is the subject of an intelligence-enhancement experiment, first learns about the mysteries of punctuation. You may have seen the film version of the story, called Charley, starring Cliff Robertson. You may also know of the punctuation-oriented song by Culture Club - Comma Chameleon, ha, ha.

Enough for now...time to get ready for work and another day of anxious waiting for the start of our vacation - now 38 days away. Yippee!!

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



The Mistress of the Dark said...

Comma Chameleon! LOL!

Everyone is reminding me of those 4 days of vacation that I still have to take before the year is out.

Gilahi said...

Speaking of math stuff, I read recently where a team of people using 75 networked computers have come up with a prime number that's 13 million digits long (I think that's right...). Apparently there's some prize offered for whoever could come up with a prime number over a certain size.

I and a friend once submitted a proof of the theorem that all prime numbers greater than 3 could be expressed as (6n +|- 1). Turned out that our proof was valid but that someone had submitted a proof using a different method a month or so earlier, so it was no longer a theorem that needed to be proven and I "Gilahi's Proof" is not in the record books.

Story of my life.

Amanda said...

A post on Punctuation day would have been fun! How about doing a belated one?

Anonymous said...

I think I have written about mondegreens in music like the 'comma chameleon'.
funny stuff but i cant laugh anymore cos i think my brain is fried from all the studying.
i think i overestimated myself. i thought i could still handle school while in fact all that i can still memorize are recipes. can't even memorize the lyrics to my own songs.
shows how my brain should be put to sleep or traded in for a new processor.
what's up? it's math class again tonight.. i better get ready for it.

NathanRyder said...

So far there are no "zero_zero_one" theorems, although I do have a few cool lemmas...

I suppose I did prove some things which are classed as theorems in my thesis, but they're not things which could be easily explained in terms of numbers and letters.

Bilbo said...

Andrea - I knew if anyone picked up on that pun, it would be you!

Gilahi - I'm sorry your proof never got recognized. Then again, my favorite proof is about 60. So to speak.

Amanda - stay tuned...if I can think of something witty enough, I'll do it.

Rima - don't forget that someone who studies too much math is a ... mathochist.

zero_zero_one - I always thought lemmas were those silly little animals that chased each other off the edges of steep cliffs...I guess I was wrong.

Mike said...

I went right to the last question.

What are the Fundamental Laws of Biology?: This question will remain front and center for the next 100 years. DARPA places this challenge last as finding these laws will undoubtedly require the mathematics developed in answering several of the questions listed above.

Answer - Law 1: inject sperm - Law 2: Pop baby out. Law 3: repeat